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Jakarta Post

Surakarta mayor stands in way of Jokowi's son's coronation

  • Ghina Ghaliya and Marchio Irfan Gorbiano

    The Jakarta Post

Jakarta   /   Thu, June 18, 2020   /   08:13 am
Surakarta mayor stands in way of Jokowi's son's coronation Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politicians Teguh Prakosa (right), Achmad Purnomo (center) and Gibran Rakabuming Raka make a joint appearance after undergoing screening at the PDI-P headquarters in Central Jakarta on Feb 10, 2020. (JP/Dhoni Setiawan)

Having served as deputy to Joko "Jokowi" Widodo when the latter was mayor of Surakarta, and having later taken over when his boss relocated to Jakarta in 2012 to run for governor, many would expect Indonesian Democratic Party of Struggle (PDI-P) politician FX Hadi Rudyatmo, the city's current mayor, to continue to be on good terms with the President. 

But in recent months, Hadi has made no efforts to hide his disagreement with Jokowi's policies. In April, in the lead-up to this year's Idul Fitri holiday, Hadi blasted Jokowi's decision to ban mudik (homecoming exodus), saying it was too little too late. Later in May, the current Surakarta mayor also criticized the government's decision to increase the premiums for the Health Care and Social Security Agency (BPJS).

Recently, the rift between Hadi and the President appears to have become very personal, with political observers considering that such a conflict could drive a wedge between the PDI-P central board and the party's local chapter in one of the nationalist party's strongholds.

Hadi has not made any efforts to hide his displeasure toward the surprise bid from President Jokowi's eldest son, Gibran Rakabuming Raka, to run in the Surakarta mayoral race.

Tension came to a head recently when Achmad Purnomo, Gibran’s rival from within the PDI-P, offered to withdraw from the 2020 mayoral race, only to be rejected by Hady, who also serves as chairman of the Surakarta PDI-P branch, on the grounds that PDI-P members in the city wanted Achmad and his running mate Teguh Prakosa to be on the top of the ticket.

"All party members rejected the withdrawal because the party central board has yet to decide on any candidate. The process must continue. "He [Achmad] is being nominated, and those nominating him are not allowing him to back off," said Hadi.

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, the government and the House of Representatives have agreed to push back the regional elections, originally scheduled for Sept. 23, to Dec. 9.

Gibran entered the Surakarta mayoral race at the eleventh hour, registering through the PDI-P’s Central Java provincial chapter after learning that the party’s Surakarta chapter had wrapped up its candidate selection process. The party's Surakarta chapter decided to nominate Achmad, the current deputy mayor, and Teguh.

Hadi's insistence on having Achmad on the ticket caught Gibran by surprise, given that Achmad has repeatedly made public statements about dropping out of the the race since April this year.

The latest decision not to accept Achmad's withdrawal has also created tension between supporters from both camps, treasurer of the PDI-P’s Surakarta branch Joni Sofyan Erwandi said.

Joni said the decision to keep Achmad at the top of the ticket represented the party chapter's stance and it appeared inevitable that the PDI-P would have two names as prospective candidates.

"Pak Pur can’t just withdraw like that. A PDI-P member should not do that. We give him the recommendation to run although the final decision lies with the chairwoman,” Joni said, referring to Achmad by his nickname.

The PDI-P central board maintained that the final decision on which candidate it would back in the Surakarta mayoral election would be the prerogative of party matriarch Megawati Seokarnoputri.

“The decision has been made [by Megawati],” said PDI-P campaign team chairman Bambang Wuryanto. Megawati is expected to make the announcement in July.

Gibran, meanwhile, said the move to keep Achmad on the ticket was fully Hadi’s business, and that he respected the decision by Achmad, whom he considered like his own father. 

Gibran said he would wait for Megawati’s final say on the nomination and added that he would continue to focus his effort on helping people in Surakarta deal with the COVID-19 pandemic.

The position of mayor in Surakarta, which is considered a traditional PDI-P stronghold, has become crucial in the country's politics as it is seen as the first stepping stone for Jokowi, who rose to national prominence after a seven-year stint as Surakarta mayor with Hadi as his deputy.

Political analysts said Hadi's decision to make matters difficult for Gibran could be seen as a territorial-marking move. “Gibran’s move may be discomforting to him [Hadi] because he is a two-term mayor, also the head of the party’s local branch,” said Centre for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) political observer Arya Fernandes.

Indonesia Political Review executive director Ujang Komarudin said the central board of the PDI-P was now caught between a rock and a hard place.

"Nominating Gibran would risk incurring the wrath of the party’s local members in Surakarta and disrupt the party’s stability in the city, while going ahead with Achmad Purnomo would have the potential of driving a wedge between President Jokowi and Megawati.

The PDI-P’s control's over Surakarta’s mayoralty meant that any candidate that it nominated stood a good chance of winning the race, and Hady has played that card against Gibran's wish, political analyst Agus Riewanto of Surakarta’s Sebelas Maret University said.

“Since 2005, the PDI-P’s candidate has always had the upper hand [in Surakarta]. “This is a test for the PDI-P’s central board to give the correct recommendation to maintain the party’s unity,” Agus said.